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ITRC Fact Sheet 100
Financial Identity Theft: The Beginning Steps

This guide includes:

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE YOU START:

Your rights under the law:

Organizing Your Case: (See ITRC Fact Sheet FS 106 for more detailed information)

Working with the Right People:

The biggest waste of time is talking with the wrong people. Keep in mind that whenever possible you want to speak with someone on the investigative or fraud side of a company or governmental agency. Customer service is seldom the correct department. They only deal with billing and service issues.

ASSESSING THE DAMAGE AND BEGINNING STEPS

  1. Equifax: Call (800) 525-6285. TDD: (800) 255-0056
  2. TransUnion: Call (800) 680-7289. TDD: (877) 553-7803. Fraud victims can also email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  3. Experian: Call (888) 397-3742

The best way to evaluate how bad your case might be is to examine your credit reports. You may call the CRAs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. At this time, English is the only language being used.

Don’t rush into taking a short-cut and buying a “tri-report” (three-in-one report). It could cut you off from fraud investigators at the CRAs. The reports generated by placing a fraud alert will have additional information that is not on a “tri-report”, such as contact information for companies with open accounts in your name.

CONTINUING THE RECOVERY PROCESS

COLLECTION AGENCIES:

ITRC has written an entire guide for this activity. See ITRC Fact Sheet FS 116 - Collection Agencies and Identity Theft for complete details.

TERMS you should know:

FCRA – Fair Credit Reporting Act

FDCPA – Fair Debt Collections Practices Act: you can get a copy of this at www.ftc.gov

SSN – Social Security Number

Credit Reporting Agencies (CRAs) – The Credit Reporting Agencies (Equifax, Experian, Transunion) are for-profit companies that are a necessary component of the identity theft remediation process.  The ITRC does not recommend consumers contact these entities as an endorsement of their goods, products or services, but rather as a necessary part of the mitigation process.  There is no alternative for following this process.  The ITRC is able to provide it’s free services due to the financial support of our corporate sponsors.  We currently have the following Credit Reporting Agencies providing financial support to the ITRC: none.

FTC – Federal Trade Commission is the governmental agency that oversees identity theft issues.

All victims should report their case when they have time to 877-IDTHEFT or to the website: https://identitytheft.gov/.

EPTA – Electronic Transfer Act: provides consumer protection for all transactions using a debit card or electronic means to debit or credit an account.  It also limits a consumer’s liability for unauthorized electronic fund transfers.

Fraud Alert – A fraud alert heightens credit issuer’s awareness that they need to authenticate and verify the applicant before issuing credit.  However, it is not 100% reliable and not always heeded.  They don’t affect your credit score but may slow down the application process.  When you initially place a fraud alert as a potential victim of identity theft, you will be offered a free credit report as part of your federal rights.  This is not the same as the free federal annualcreditreport.com (please refer to ITRC Fact Sheet FS 125).

Security or Credit Freeze – With a freeze, a company may not look at your credit report for the purposes of establishing new lines of credit.  Companies you already have an existing relationship with (example: a credit card, loan or utility service) may view your reports but only to review your credit-worthiness.  Placing a freeze is a strong step to take and will affect your ability to get instant credit since it can take up to three days to lift the freeze from (unfreeze) your credit report.  However, it also locks out thieves. In those states with freeze laws, most state that victims with a police report get this service for free.  Most states also allow the consumer to buy a freeze.  You may lift your freeze anytime you wish to apply for credit but you will need to plan ahead.  See ITRC Fact Sheet FS 124 for more information or our State & Local Resources to see if your state has a freeze program.

Passwords – a password should not be a mother’s maiden name.  If the bank insists on a mother’s maiden name then make one up.  A strong password should be more than 8 characters in length, and contain both capital letters and at least one numeric or other non-alphabetical character.  Use of non-dictionary words is also advised.  Place passwords on all bank accounts and credit cards as a proactive prevention action against account takeover.

This solution sheet should not be used in lieu of legal advice. Any requests to reproduce this material, other than by individual victims for their own use, should be directed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..